A chemistry technician typically works inside a laboratory performing routine analysis and general laboratory duties. Commonly, a technician role requires less education than a chemist's role, but the understanding of technician tends to vary. A chemistry technician in one workplace may require a bachelor's degree rather than an associates degree, which only last two years. Support duties such as supply management, sample and material preparation and equipment checks may be the preserve of a chemistry technician, in support of chemists or postdoctoral researchers.
Chemistry laboratories contain many different pieces of equipment, all specialized for particular tests. A chemistry technician typically performs routine testing of samples. This involves lots of paperwork, especially in highly regulated industries, as samples and test results need to be documented and traceable. Examples of highly regulated industries that a chemistry technician may work in include pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Other types of possible workplaces include hospital laboratories, food factories and government regulatory bodies.
As well as testing the samples, the technician often collects the samples, from sources such as water supplies, manufacturing ingredients or even air samples. The type of samples that need testing depend on the industry the technician is in, and the expertise learned in one industry, such as the food industry, is often very specific to that area. Technicians may be able to move up into roles with more responsibility, such as management roles, if their level of education is sufficient for that new role.
Generally the technician maintains and performs checks on his or her equipment daily. He or she also generally has to spend some of the day preparing materials for use in the laboratory, as often chemicals have short expiry dates. Associated duties with a laboratory job include regular health and safety checks, hazardous waste handling, and attending training sessions for new analytical techniques.
Some technicians work directly on the manufacturing floor of a plant and also go by the title "process technician." Here they monitor the progress of production, take samples and assess and troubleshoot problems. Other chemistry technicians work in a specific area of the plant called "quality assurance," and these people generally spend the majority of their time inside the laboratory. In labs that do not perform routine testing, but rather focus on research, a chemistry technician can also form part of the team. In this scenario, the research is commonly led by scientists with a postgraduate qualification in the field, such as a doctorate, and the technician carries out the required testing.